An online church service is more than a camera streaming the service. It’s an experience. Here are five ways to enhance your church’s online experience.
By Carl Barnhill
While technology is rapidly changing and it’s becoming more and more valuable to have tech savvy staff members, the formula for reaching people with the gospel has not changed. Yet half of pastors say technology is an important skill they should continue to invest in so they can improve in their roles.
When it comes to crafting worship experiences for a digital space, the secret is not buying a specific piece of equipment or using a particular platform. The secret sauce for effective online worship experiences is relationships. It’s about connecting with people online.The secret to a good online church experience is not the technology or equipment. The secret is relationships. It's connecting with people online. Click To Tweet
To accomplish this, some churches may need to shift their mindsets. An online church service isn’t just a camera in the back of the room streaming the service. If you were planting a church with a new building, you wouldn’t just put a building up and walk away. You would create an inviting environment for people to engage in fellowship, enjoy corporate worship together, and serve together.
The same is true with your online experience. It’s just that—an experience. It’s a journey you take your audience on from the moment they come to your page until the moment they leave.
With that framework, here are five things to consider when it comes to enhancing your church’s online experience.
1. Be authentic
People will notice when you’re not yourself or when you’re trying to copy the church down the road. Don’t fall into this trap. Work within the context God has placed you and grow from there.
Be authentic with your production.
Don’t be something you’re not. If you don’t have the equipment to do a multi-camera setup with lots of post-production editing and graphics, don’t do it. It’s better to be excellent with the tools you have in your toolbox than to try to overachieve and fail.It’s better to be excellent with the tools you have in your toolbox than to try to overachieve and fail. — @CarlBarnhill Click To Tweet
Be authentic in your speech.
Make it second nature to speak to the audience in the room and online.
Be authentic with worship.
If you’re crafting an online-only service, try a stripped-down, acoustic feel. Online is a more intimate environment for a smaller screen. Craft your worship in such a way that it connects with your online viewers as well as those in the room.
2. Choose a solid streaming provider
As you plan and prepare to go online, selecting a solid streaming provider is important. You need a service that allows you to push your content to multiple destinations. You can stream directly to YouTube or Facebook. However, a streaming provider is going to allow you to set up your website with a specific stream key and use that platform to send your streams to other social platforms.
I would highly recommend using a streaming provider like Resi. If you’re looking for a simple service that will stream your feed to many destinations, then you can also check out Restream. Here’s a list of some other streaming providers your church can look into:
- Light Cast Media
- Media Fusion
- Box Cast
- Worship Channels
- LifeStream TV
3 Use the Church Online Platform to create an online experience on your church website
There are many features packed into this tool:
- Live chat for sharing, answering questions, and encouraging people on the live stream
- Live prayer for supporting people with one-on-one prayer during a worship service
- Synced view- which allows you to simulate live experiences so people watch the service together
- Tablet and mobile friendly
- Dedicated host workspace which allows for focused chat and host tools and moderated conversations and gives the ability to host from anywhere in the world
- YouVersion Bible App integration means people can open the Bible right from the stream window without having to leave your live stream to open another app
4. Focus on audio
As you’re getting started crafting your online worship experience, the tendency is to think through the video components—what camera you should get and what lighting you need.
Though you want to strive for both excellent video and audio quality, your online worship experience viewer will be more forgiving of poorer video and lighting quality than bad audio quality. The audio portion of your video is arguably the most important component of a great video. If I can see you okay but hear you great, it’s a significantly more pleasant experience than if the audio is distorted or bad.Though you want to strive for both excellent video and audio quality, your online worship experience viewer will be more forgiving of poorer video and lighting quality than bad audio quality. — @CarlBarnhill Click To Tweet
So, as you start gathering your Amazon shopping list for your gear needs, focus on what audio equipment you might need first.
My friends at Blackbar have a great video on what audio equipment you will want to consider as you get started.
5. Prepare for your live stream
Test your stream before Sunday. Test everything you can.
You can test your stream privately by sending it to a page or place that your congregation can’t see. You might create a dummy Facebook group to push your stream to for testing. The only people in that group are your core team of testers. You can set up your stream and go live to that group to make sure everything functions the way you want it to.
Another idea, especially if you’re testing a new system, is to do a live stream test that’s public. You can do this test days before your broadcast. Your pastor could share a quick devotional, or you could share some updates or announcements for your church.
With a public stream test, you can even say, “Hey church body, we’re doing a live stream test to test our system out for Sunday. And while we’re doing that, I thought I’d share a few announcements with you…”
Testing your stream will allow you to walk the process out to get familiar with your software and what to do. It will also help you identify any problems with audio, formatting, and making sure everything looks like you want it to.
For many more tips and tricks to enhance your online worship experience, check out my book “The Church Online Guide” here.